When America’s news cartel woke up to one of 2005’s biggest stories—Muslims running riot across France—the response from many a neoconservative was to gloat.
The Schadenfreude was tinged with a sense of American superiority. It’s not happening here because we’re better. And why are we superior? To listen to their accounts, it’s because we’ve submerged or erased aspects of the American identity.
Taking the Frank out of the French hasn’t been as easy. As the famed (neoconservative) Francis Fukuyama has observed, in Europe “identity remains rooted in blood, soil and ancient shared memory.” How gauche.
While European migrants to France—from Poland, Portugal, Italy, Spain—have all taken on this identity, becoming Français de souche (ethnic French), the descendants of Muslims from the former colonies haven’t assimilated. “The Republic” and Islam’s followers aren’t such a tight fit after all.
A new French book, Les Islamistes Sont Déjà Là (“The Islamist Are Already There”), contends that these sons of France are flocking to “green fascism” with distressing regularity. Moderate Muslims have been marginalized. The mosques have become vectors for radicalism, and are, by and large, controlled by Algerian and Moroccan governments. (I can just hear our brave new world orderlies piping up, “Doesn’t the Vatican select France’s bishops? Then why shouldn’t foreign governments choose ‘French’ Imams?”.) A majority of French prison inmates are now adherents of Islam. Anti-Semitic violence has also risen considerably; Saudi proselytes preach the stuff; local Muslims practice it.
American smugness might be misplaced or premature, considering that the more moderate Shiite and Sufi in this country have been shunted aside by the Sunni establishment; that most mosques practice Sunnism and come under Saudi Wahhabi influence; and that the penitentiaries—home to 200,000 Muslim inmates—are now the top recruiting grounds for al-Qaida.
Perhaps the threat to both homelands is overplayed. I sincerely hope so—for the French and for us. But even if France isn’t the proverbial canary in the coal mine, shouldn’t Americans be rooting for this once-magnificent European country?
Not according to some prominent neoconservatives, for whom the destruction of 8,400 vehicles, dozens of buildings, and at least one life by the Muslim community of France has served to focus attentions on… the “bigoted” French.
Frederick Kempe of The Wall Street Journal and Fukuyama (apposite here is William S. Lind’s observation that “the words ‘academic’ and ‘intellectual’ have become opposites”) have both been raving about a book which clearly has the makings of a neoconservative Rosetta stone (it didn’t impress the august—and liberal—Times Literary Supplement).
Olivier Roy, author of Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, “observes that the views of émigré Muslims are much more affected by conditions in the host countries than by Muslim ideas imported from outside.” I think we know where this formulation leaves the French: in the dock.
Touché says Fukuyama. Second-generation Muslim militancy is a crisis of identity (and that includes too little unconditional love from their hosts).
“…the Dutch, Germans, French and others all retain a strong sense of their national identity, and, to differing degrees, it is one that is not accessible to people coming from Turkey, Morocco or Pakistan.”[And vise versa, Sir: Turkish, Moroccan, or Pakistani national identities are not “accessible” to Europeans, should they want them.]
Jonah Goldberg of National Review is blunter. He fingers French racism and snobbery in marginalizing the Maghrebis:
“If a resume arrives at the patisserie with the name Hamid on it, it gets trashed without the recipient wondering whether he was unfair to a Muslim, a black, an immigrant or even a French citizen.”
Even if this allegation were true of French society as a whole, why should the French be told by their government, or by Mr. Goldberg, how and who to hire? Don’t their brasseries and patisseries belong to them? Inherent in private property is the right to include or exclude; associate with or dissociate from. This attribute is also why we in the West are supposed to uphold private property as a civilizing institution. How better to keep the peace than to keep a distance?
However, the quaint notion that personal sovereignty ought to supersede central planning is not one Goldberg, Fukuyama, or Kempe are willing to entertain.
In his “Thinking Global” column, Kempe, who does “Katie Couric and her colleagues” proud, advises that France, “a country where racism is rampant but whose official ideology still doesn’t allow registration of minorities,” must “implement what’s most needed—“tough antidiscrimination laws or affirmative action programs.”
To her credit, France has no institutionalized multiculturalism. Integrating individuals, not communities, is how the French have approached their émigré population. They say their republican values proscribe affirmative action. But since America’s republican values haven’t hindered racist quotas here, says our neoconservative troika, the French should get with The Program.
For his part, Fukayama thinks the “post-national,” global man embodies all things hip and happening. While Kempe advocates affirmative action, and Goldberg taunts the French to take up the gauntlet and “fix” the “system,” presumably by making it more American, Fukayama goes one better.
He recommends central planning of a different kind: nation building. Out with the old; in with the new. Europeans ought to fashion a spanking new national identity under a familiar neoconservative deity, democracy.
Now where have we heard that before?
©2005 By Ilana Mercer